Country artist Jason Aldean recently released a track that sent shockwaves far outside of the country music community. The lyrics of the track contain several coded references to executions by firing squad, support for police brutality amid the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, and the general legacy of racism that Jim Crow laws left in their wake.
The accompanying music video contains several violent scenes, which has led critics to brand the project as propaganda. On top of the theories circulating about the song, Aldean’s Nashville restaurant has long been the subject of rumors alleging racism towards customers of color.
Now, Grammy winning folk rock artist Sheryl Crow is speaking out on the track. Crow, who grew up in a small town in Missouri and predominantly resides in Nashville, Tennessee, called out Aldean on Twitter for his attempted corruption of small town culture. Aldean notably survived the Harvest Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2017, yet still promotes assault rifle ownership.
.@Jason_Aldean I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence.There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting.
This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame https://t.co/cuOtUO9xjr
— Sheryl Crow (@SherylCrow) July 19, 2023
Following Crow’s call out, “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness entered the conversation. Van Ness grew up in Illinois, and referenced how small town culture often excludes the LGBTQ+ community. The multi-hyphenate hairdresser, comedian, and television personality went on to explain the importance of inclusivity. Van Ness has long been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, especially amid the recent wave of anti-trans legislation.
In the TikTok video, Van Ness points out that Aldean has spoken out against LGBTQ+ “propaganda” that he accused of “making children gay.” Instead, Aldean dresses his two children in former President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” or “MAGA” merchandise.
Social Media Reactions
Crow and Van Ness were met with an outpouring of support. Both have remained advocates for a variety of marginalized communities throughout their respective careers. Crow was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in 2022, an honor never bestowed to Aldean. One Twitter user pointed out Crow’s power in the music industry.
imagine getting owned by rock and roll legend Sheryl Crow. I would immediately move to Siberia and never be seen again. https://t.co/JUp6SlWpXQ
— Marissa R. Moss (@MarissaRMoss) July 19, 2023
Sheryl Crow for the win calling out that MAGA idiot Jason Aldean for promoting violence in his stupid new song pic.twitter.com/xiO5wNrYab
— Wu Tang is for the Children (@WUTangKids) July 19, 2023
Many reminded newer fans of Crow that the singer-songwriter has always been a progressive advocate.
oh she’s mother. she gained a new fan 🤞🏽
— Paul⁴ is #SingleSoon | BLM (@selenastan18) July 19, 2023
Y’all saying who in the comments like put some respect on Sheryl soak up the sun, if it makes you happy, the first cut is the deepest Crow! That’s mother
— 💫 (@heyjaeee) July 19, 2023
In Jonathan Van Ness’ TikTok comments, viewers rapidly expressed their support. A top comment read “I’m here for the queer eye hair stylist becoming my fave political commentator.”
Rolling Stone found that the footage for the music video was taken from at least three protests in Montreal and Toronto, Canada. CMT pulled the video from the channel due to the violent undertones. One Twitter user pointed out that the filming location in Tennessee was the site of a violent lynching decades ago.
“In addition to…the song's lyrics, some noted that the video was seemingly filmed filmed in front of the Maury County Courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, where a Black man named Henry Choate was lynched in 1927. The courthouse also played a role in the 1946 Columbia Race Riot”.
— Johanna (@JoSwedishMamma) July 19, 2023
Another Twitter user resurfaced an image that allegedly depicts Aldean wearing blackface.
— Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) July 19, 2023
Elsewhere, others reminded country music fans that the genre has long been in need of a progressive reckoning. Decades ago, the industry heavily criticized the Chicks for speaking out against the American invasion of Iraq. The group have long been viewed as some of the most progressive women in country.
— • Bull • (@RednecRenegade) July 19, 2023
After days of mounting criticism surrounding “Try That In A Small Town,” the singer finally addressed the controversy in a Twitter statement.
In the past 24 hours I have been accused of releasing a pro-lynching song (a song that has been out since May) and was subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous.…
— Jason Aldean (@Jason_Aldean) July 18, 2023
The singer vaguely referenced his conservative political beliefs, and continued to defend the song. CMT and the city of Columbia, Tennessee are yet to comment further on the controversy.